The Blacksburg Town Council discussed adopting a new budget for the 2019–2020 fiscal year at its March 12 meeting. A public hearing for the budget is scheduled for April 9.
The meeting’s consent agenda also included several other ordinances besides the budget, including one that permits keeping chickens in residential areas and one that increases town service fees.
Ordinance No. 1888, which amends Zoning Ordinance Section 2103 and Town Code Section 5-204(A), permits the keeping of urban chickens in residential areas.
Families in the Bennett Hill and Progress Street neighborhoods will have to wait one more month for a decision on this zoning change.
“We will not approve that (ordinance) tonight, but we’ll have an introduction and schedule a public hearing of this for April 9th,” said Leslie Hager-Smith, the mayor of Blacksburg.
Ordinance No. 1890 and Ordinance No. 1891 deal with the finances of Blacksburg. The first ordinance approves the funds for the coming fiscal year as well as adopts a real estate tax rate. The latter focuses on amending several Blacksburg town code sections to water and sewer service fees, meter fees, and solid waste and recycling service fees.
The operating budget is $90,447,700 for the 2019–2020 fiscal year. The total budget increased by 35.1 percent. The Capital Improvement Program will be the first project once the budget is adopted.
In addition, community members introduced new amendments to existing ordinances after the council reviewed the consent agenda.
Town Attorney Larry Spencer read the staff report on Ordinance No. 1887, which grants the telecommunications company Shentel franchises for small cell facilities in town rights of way. Small cell facilities are used to provide additional wireless services.
According to Spencer, AT&T would suggest having these facilities around student-housing complexes instead of in downtown areas. The Blacksburg Town Council approved this ordinance.
“AT&T has contacted us about trying to roll some of these out,” Spencer said. “They want to talk to us about actually erecting poles for these instead of co-locating them.”
Bob Harrison, a Blacksburg community member, introduced Ordinance No. 1883, which amends zoning ordinance sections regarding development standards in the R-4 Low Density Residential District. Harrison said this ordinance affects the size and location of construction of a single family home and associated driveways in the district.
Harrison discussed three amendments to the ordinance. One includes removing the current standard for front-yard setbacks, as the standard may restrict home location and create lack of continuity in residential block. The other two amends include limiting driveway expansions, and increasing the allowed floor area ratio (FAR) for single family homes in R-4 districts as well has include attic and basement spaces within the FAR calculation.
These changes keep in mind the consistency of housing sizes on similar lot sizes in neighborhoods as well as similar driveway areas. This ordinance was also approved by the council.
“This is something I think the home builders community has asked for for a long time,” Hager-Smith said. “I think this is a good move to get us in line with building code and to accommodate the wishes of those people who are trying to meet our housing needs.”
The discussion on ordinance amendments shifted during the citizen comments, when Emily Templeton addressed a letter-writing campaign that she and her husband started. She asked for the Town Council to participate by helping them receive letters and doing a hand-off on Saturday, April 20, before Earth Day.
This new local initiative to promote civic engagement includes community members writing environmentally themed letters to their local government representatives at all levels, Templeton said. Government levels include county, state and Congress representatives.
These letters will be gathered throughout Blacksburg and delivered in Roanoke by bicycle, which Templeton said promotes an alternative form of transportation. The bike routes will run through Blacksburg, Christiansburg and Roanoke.
“(It) promotes civic engagement in our citizens; it empowers people to feel like they can engage with their representatives,” Templeton said. “It also will raise awareness of environmental issues, not just for the people who are writing the letters, but raising it up to our government officials to realize something this is something that people really care about.
“It is the role of government to help us achieve a good, clean environment,” Templeton said.